Dear Mum

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Dear Mom.”

Dear mum,

Thank you. Thank you for all of the things you did for me that (at the time) caused me to froth and foam and jump up and down like a little curly haired imp. On PCP.

I never thanked you at the time. Most probably, when I was really little, I just ran away, leaving some sort of encrypted note (I did that a lot. I was a strange child). In my adolescence I probably ran away too, but in place of the encoded treasure map to me, I probably left in a cloud of profanity and broken door hinges.

The thing is, the things you did that (literally) drove me wild have made me the woman I am today, and for that I wish to say thanks:

Thank you for pushing me (into the lake)

I’m not naturally brave. My default setting is ‘I can’t’. I’m more drawn than many to the comfort zone. Fear is with me often.

You sensed that in me, that day on the lake in Canada. I was petrified of jumping through the dead smooth film of that collosal lake, to break the surface with my tiny body and end up being eaten by some sort of eel-catfish hybrid. You didn’t want me to be ‘the wimpy kid’, and you knew that my failure to join the other children in their revery would be nail number one in a future casket of fear. And so you pushed me in. I can’t remember what happened after that, I only remember before – standing on the pontoon crying, with you encouraging me in your gentle voice. After that, you must have lost your patience and just given me a little shove.

Whatever your motivation was, I thank you for not letting me pussy out. I thank you every time I swim in open water. I thank you every time a boat ride gets a little choppy. I thank you for my lack of fear, and the freedom to enjoy the pleasure of the sea.

I still shit myself in lakes when something touches my feet though.

Thank you for keeping your opinions to yourself (and for being my dad)

You never said a bad word about him. My dad. You must have wanted to. But no, you said it was important I make up my own mind about him, that strange absent man who showed up once every couple of years and started telling me what to do in his broken English.

Instead, you focused on filling the void he left behind. I remember you saying that you wished, just for once, that you didn’t have to be the bad guy. It must have been really hard having to always be the one who said no. I bet you often wished you could have said “oh alright, just don’t tell your father”. Being a mum and a dad is a thankless task, but you never took the easy way out, you always did what was best for me – even when that meant a month of me acting like a complete shit. So now, I wish to thank you a trillion times. May golden encrusted fairy angels lead you to sleep every night, and may you be woken with Guatemalan coffee made by the gods every morning.

Thank you for the rope ladder

Seriously. It was fucking awesome.

Thank you for letting me leave

I was only 17, but you knew I could handle my shit. We were at the end of a very frayed rope, and me moving out saved us. It moved our relationship out of the realm of needing and into the realm of wanting. In a way, my behaviour probably made it easier. Your worry must have been coloured with a little relief. But that independence matured me (even if my inability to cook anything other than bacon and eggs filled me out just a little).

Instead of demands and resentment, I could give you conversation and appreciation. I’ll also never forget the suprise and relief on the faces of granny and Tom when I went to see them in Devon for the first time after moving out, and they discovered I’d morphed from an angry, hateful teenager into a polite and caring young adult. I wish you could have been there when I offered to carry Gran’s bag. I thought she was going to keel over, right there in Marks and Spencer’s cafeteria (heaven forbid!).

I’ll always need you. But not in the way I used to. Now I just need to know you’re there and that you’re happy. The rest is child’s play – and I have you to thank for that.

Thank you for being Dora the Explorer

You’ll be familiar with the character Rincewind in Terry Pratchett’s amazing novels. He’s the one who almost always nearly gets into terribly sticky spots of bother on his travels, but because of his wonderful faith in the world, is always fine. That’s you, that is. And I’m The Luggage*.

Aged five, I got to live in Canada. Aged eight, I got to live in Colombia. All my life, I got to travel the world like a miniature Lara Croft, complete with my own little backpack.

At the time, I remember thinking I’d rather be in Butlins, Bognor Regis, with all my other classmates. That must have really got your back up. I know because not only have I inherited you insessant wanderlust, I have also inherited your travel snobbery. Knowing I’d rather be in a static caravan playing bingo, than trekking the Inca trail and sleeping in jungle hammocks must have really got your goat. And rightly so.

I only wish I could transport back to that time, with a more rational head on my shoulders. I wish I could remember the un spoilt majesty of the Caribbean then (because it sure is spoilt now). Mostly, I wish I could say “yes!” When you ask me “do you remember when…”.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for giving me those experiences, and for not listening when concerned friends told you not to go, and just for being awesome, really. You’re my hero.

* for those unfamiliar with Terry Pratchett’s work, calling myself The Luggage doesn’t imply that I was baggage. Actually The Luggage is a sentient, bag-based life form with legs that frequently saves Rincewind’s bacon, and is somewhat of a hero. Also, shout out to Mr Pratchett (RIP) for influencing my use of footnotes.

Thank you for being hardcore

No one sees you in this way, but I know your secret. You’ve been through a lot. Life hasn’t always been kind to you, and you’ve always had a preference for doing what’s right. Not what’s easy.

The reason that – despite everything you’ve been through – you have always had an aura of childlike wonder (what jaded, mean and damaged people might unkindly refer to as niavete, but what I prefer to call innocence) has nothing to do with life experience (for surely you could fill ten thousand books with that). It has to do with the cherished lesson you were gifted with from your own mother; the lesson you passed on to me, which I in turn have shared with anyone and everyone who’ll listen:

Don’t let life make you bitter.

I could go on all night and all of tomorrow thinking of things to thank you for, but it seems right to end on this lesson, the most important lesson of all. You see, in that succinct phrase is all anyone ever needs to know about being happy. And being happy is your biggest gift to me.

Thank you.

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